CLLR Tom Shortt has stood over his criticism of a remembrance mass held in the council chamber this week - and organised by his Labour colleague Mayor Gerry McLoughlin.
“I am not against the concept of a mass. By all means have it but have it in a Catholic church. I was surprised by how quickly the mayor’s desk could be transformed into an altar. That’s more like the Ireland of the 1950s. We need to be careful about what message we are sending out to people of all denominations and none,” said Cllr Shortt.
Monday’s meeting of Limerick City Council was adjourned as a mark of respect for former Fianna Fail councillor, the late John O’Connor. But before the meeting was adjourned, a number of councillors took the opportunity to thank Mayor McLoughlin for having organised a service, presided over by Canon Donough O’Malley earlier in the day, for councillors and members of staff at City Hall who had been bereaved during the year.
These included Cllr Kieran O’Hanlon, who recently lost his brother Jack; Cllr Maria Byrne and Cllr Kathleen Leddin, who described it as “a unifying and memorable occasion”.
But Cllr Shortt, who found it less inclusive, said he had “an alternative view”.
“I appreciate that November is the month of remembrance in the Catholic faith but Limerick City Council must move in a more multidenominational direction and it is, I feel, not appropriate to have mass in the council chamber. And if we are to have a service, it must be multidenominational in nature,” he declared.
Cllr Maurice Quinlivan, while he did not wish to get into a lengthy debate, expressed sympathy with Cllr Shortt’s view.
But Cllr Diarmuid Scully said the service was “entirely appropriate” and suggested Cllr Shortt was confusing the secularist tradition of a country like France with the multidenominational tradition in Ireland which he said respected all faiths. It was not for Limerick City Council to “deny people the comfort they do find it their faith. That is something to be protected and not to be shunned,” Cllr Scully said.
Mayor McLoughlin said he would take Cllr Shortt’s views on board. He added that times were changing.
“I went to 12 o’clock mass in John’s yesterday for the feast of Christ the King and I met a man who said he could remember a time when all councillors would come to the cathedral robed for the feast of Christ the King,” said the mayor.
But Cllr Shortt this Wednesday appealed for “a little bit more sensitivity for the times we live in.
“It’s only a couple of weeks ago since we were grappling with the issue of Muslim burials in Limerick City Council cemeteries and that shows we have to respect all denominations. Some of the Muslim community tell me that because they can’t get the type of burial they would like in Limerick, they are buried in Dublin and that is not fair on people who are living in Limerick.”
“We are an arm of government. There has to be a bit more sensitivity around use of the council chamber,” said Cllr Shortt.
See Letters, page 16